Saturday, August 4, 2012

Down the Rabbit Hole.....

What is it about Alice and her adventures in Wonderland/the Looking-Glass World that lures generation after generation of youngsters down the rabbit hole? What do we like about going over to the other side of the mirror along with her? Even if you've never read either of the Alice books, you know the general pattern of the story - little girl gets lost in a fantasy land that borders on the stuff of nightmare, almost loses her head, battles Jabberwock (albeit vicariously), listens to a bunch of idiotic adults argue about idiotic things. Maybe that last suggests one of the reasons kids like her so much: she's plucky, lucky, and smart - and all of the adults are stupid.

I've been obsessed with Alice for the last, oh, 25 years. She became one of the major subjects of my dissertation. I teach the Alice books whenever I get the chance. I've read them countless times to my kids (much to their chagrin). I collect different versions of the books - the creepier and more disturbing, the better (my favorite is the one pictured above, by Camille Rose Garcia). I'll tell you why one day soon. But this story is one that is best unraveled slowly. I will say this: the Alice books symbolize, for me, my beginnings as a reader - and I haven't changed much over the years. I like the thrill of the Jabberwock. I want to jump into the book to defeat that beast with my vorpal sword.  And I like the villains best of all.

As this blog grows, I hope to be able to put my finger on the pulse. Which children's books really succeed in capturing the imagination? What are the best books to spark your kids' growth as readers, thinkers, and people?  Why do we Peter Pans who refuse to grow up remain enthralled in these books? (You know, deep down, that you really want the Where the Wild Things Are sheets on sale at Pottery Barn Kids for yourself, not for your son.)

So, come fall down the rabbit hole with me. It'll be a long and trippy trip. Pinky swear. Just remember, we're all mad here ...

Tomorrow, we'll look at Alice 2.0: Neil Gaiman's Coraline.
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